TLC-e4m webinar: ‘E-commerce really flattens the world’

A webinar curated by TLC and exchange4media Group saw a panel of industry experts deliberate on how the fashion and lifestyle industry has been recovering from the pandemic

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Sep 9, 2020 9:17 AM  | 7 min read

TLC - the pioneering lifestyle channel from Discovery Network - in collaboration with exchange4media Group curated a webinar on Tuesday where experts delved into how the fashion and lifestyle industry has been recovering from the pandemic. The topic for the virtual discussion was - 'New Trends In The New Normal'.

The session was chaired by Nawal Ahuja, Co-founder, exchange4media Group, and the panellists for the webinar were Ayushman Chiranewala, Head of Product & Marketing – Fastrack, Titan Company Limited; Dr Ipsita  Chatterjee, Head - Innovation Development & Brand Strategy, Lotus Herbals; Khatija Lokhandwala, Dy. General Manager-Marketing, Zivame; Prachi Mohapatra, CMO, Fbb; and Uma Talreja, Customer Care Associate, Chief Marketing and Customer Officer, Shoppers Stop Ltd.

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19, the lockdown and how Shoppers Stop has managed to bounce back, Talreja shared, “Of course, in the beginning of the lockdown, everything was shut and then we saw all of us had to join the digital bandwagon very quickly. Most brands would have done that just like Shoppers Stop did. So in the beginning of the lockdown we were much more focused on online and WhatsApp selling, but now stores are open and it’s already been a few weeks since all the stores are open across the country. I think we'll have some different patterns which are now emerging. 

So, we’ve also been in the apparel segment and all brands are seeing the ‘end of season sale’ since August and that is definitely giving a little bit of boost to the demand that otherwise would have been there and you see people coming back to the stores. This also differs with regions where the Covid penetration is low, like in smaller towns, Tier 2 and 3 markets where customers are actually coming back.”

Sharing estimates, Talreja said, “We are back to maybe a degrowth of about 35 to 40% in these markets of what it was in the last year. In the other markets like West - Mumbai, Pune and some parts of South, which is still slow and we could be at 50% of what we used to be. We also see differences in the type of people coming to our stores and the average age of visitors in the store has definitely fallen. We have also noticed new customers coming in. While in the past, there was a high penetration of our loyalty-based customers that still exists, now we are seeing many new customers coming in.”

Regarding Fastrack’s approach during the lockdown, Chiranewala said, "The lockdown allowed us to actually spend time to understand what impact it was having on our customers and what are the kind of categories that are likely to emerge for us to capitalise on.”

Taking the discussion ahead, Chatterjee cited the ‘lipstick effect’ and shared how with the compulsion to wear masks the beauty segment has seen new flourishing categories. "Initially, our beauty industry also faced hiccups. In fact, as per statistics, the beauty sector is in the top-10 industries to have been negatively impacted because in the beauty segment there are daily and luxury needs as well. So, of course, certain products did see a setback. However, beauty has become more holistic and more approachable. Earlier, it was the Lipstick Effect, where people during economic slowdowns or calamities used to indulge in little luxuries which used to make them happy like lipsticks. If you go back to the past and look at the events like the Great Depression, the 2008 recession and other natural calamities, people have indulged in the purchase of lipsticks. 

 Talking about the other side, Chatterjee pointed out that with one wearing a mask whenever stepping out how would a lipstick stay relevant. The other interesting phenomena to come forward has been the eyeliner effect. “As human beings, non-verbal communication, whether between two individuals or between communities or while meeting people face to face, forms an important part. So with the mask on, only the eyes and the area around the eyes are exposed. Hence, there's a surge in demand for eye-related products. Another product opportunity for the beauty industry has been safe products and safe essentials - soap, shower washes and disinfectants are the new heroes.”

Khatija highlighted how sleepwear and activewear categories have transformed on account of the lockdown as consumers have become more health and comfort conscious. “One very interesting thing for us is that Zivame is an omnichannel player, which is significant in the e-commerce space and we also have retail stores. And just before lockdown, the thought would have been that maybe lingerie sales would go down, as why would one need to actually purchase lingerie. But we’ve all been surprised at the kind of demand for lingeries. People are not only shopping for basic styles but also for strapless bras, push up bras and shapewears. Consumers have actually indulged in these kinds of categories to look good and feel good for themselves.”

Two other categories that we have seen a big jump in - is sleepwear and activewears. Earlier, people used to end up sleeping in their old outerwear but sleepwear has seen a complete transformation on account of this lockdown. Now, it is seen as an important category and consumers are actively shopping for sleepwears and looking for prints and colours that add excitement to their lives. Activewear, too, has seen a huge surge as health and wellness has become a priority for most of us. All the categories we were present in has not seen a drop in demand. After the lockdown, demand came back quite robustly and we’ve seen it sustained month after month.”

Prachi Mohapatra shared her experience of e-commerce sales as compared to retail shopping. “For us, whatever stage of digital maturity we were in we just had to march up ourselves and go definitely deeper into this space as there was no choice for any of us - retail or brick and mortar brands. Here’s two things that we observed: when you have a customer inside the store you know that he/she is definitely going to invest something inside this area he has stepped into. While e-commerce is a very different ball game altogether, there are deals going on and brands which are already there. That’s a space where you have two or two and a half seconds of the attention span of customers. Two things that we have done very specifically as a brand is, we have sliced down the cohorts that we speak to and that’s going to be one of the spaces, even if you are a value brand or a luxury brand or a prestige brand; you should know what is it you are running for and what is the interest sets that you are chasing for and that very clearly defines for us a brand.”

According to Chiranewala, Fastrack has a multi-channel approach but e-commerce has always been an important channel for the brand. “We are targeted at the youth. So, 18-21 being our core audience, e-commerce was seeing a significant double digit growth even before the lockdown. Now a lot more people buy online, so some of the mantras that we have used to be successful before and even now, have really been things like getting your content right and knowing who your audience is. And what ecommerce does for you is it really flattens the world. So if somebody is entering the category, he is probably seeing everything that you’ve offered and you really need to fight for differentiation and all the premiums that you're going to charge for.”

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